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Tue Aug 25, 2020, 09:34 AM

Coronavirus cases surfacing at NM schools

Coronavirus cases have surfaced at dozens of school and education sites in New Mexico this month, even without the return of traditional in-person classes, according to state records. They’ve popped up across the state, from Albuquerque to Artesia, triggering the temporary closure of school buildings, contact tracing and deep cleaning.

Records published by the state Environment Department — which helps oversee rapid-response testing of employers — show schools have reported about 50 positive tests among employees at more than 30 locations since Aug. 1. For school leaders, it’s been a preview of the challenges they might face when in-person classes resume.

Dennis Roch, superintendent of Logan Municipal Schools, said his district heard from three state agencies — the departments of Health, Environment and Public Education — after an employee tested positive earlier this month. Each agency, he said, responded at its own pace, some taking days to follow up. “There’s three separate agencies I’m reporting to, answering a lot of the same kinds of questions from each,” Roch said in an interview. “It raises a question about how rapid is the response under this ‘rapid response,’ and is the response even coordinated among different agencies?”

The number of new coronavirus cases detected in New Mexico each day has plunged over the past month — from a peak average of 330 cases a day in the week that ended July 29 to 138 a day in the week that ended Monday, according to a Journal analysis. The state’s goal is to keep its seven-day rolling average of cases to 168 or below.

New Mexico, in fact, complies with all of its reopening criteria — a set of standards on how quickly the disease is spreading, testing capacity, the supply of medical equipment and hospital beds, and other factors.


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